50 Classic Climbs of Australia – Devil’s Dihedral

Photo y Alex Mougenot

Almost smack bang in the middle of the western arm of Frog Buttress stands a triumvirate of uber-classics, each a desirable testpiece for trad aficionados. The central line in this holy trinity is Devil’s Dihedral, a twin crack masterpiece that holds an esteemed place in Australian climbing history. The route was one of many to fall to the relentless prowess of Hot Henry Barber during his blitzkrieg raid in 1975, an event which is still the stuff of legend.

Arguably one of the most pivotal moments in the history of Australian climbing, Barber’s whirlwind tour changed the face of the sport forever. Regarded as one of the best climbers of his era, the indefatigable Barber climbed 41 out of the 42 days he spent Down Under. During this time, he relentlessly plucked the most coveted prizes, snatching them from under the nose of gobsmacked locals at dozens of crags in 6 different states. He single-handedly raised the grade by two full numbers and ushered in an entirely new standard of ability.

This came at a time when the Australian climbing community was in a state of civil war. The disparate tribes from each state waged continual “raiding parties” into enemy territory, hoping to claim quick repeats or eliminate aid moves from local testpieces (for more on this, see the entry for Ozymandias, Mt Buffalo). Given the prevailing climate of hostility, Barber’s invasion must have rankled somewhat with the natives. In just over a month, Barber laid waste to the dreams of many, establishing dozens of FA’s and FFA’s in unstoppable fashion.

But any animosity toward Barber has been diluted with the passage of time, and many of his ascents are revered by modern climbers as time-honoured classics. Devil’s Dihedral is one such line. The route was first put up by Dave Reeve and Mike Meadows, the former of whom says it was “done in two pitches, 90% aid with 4 pitons and 5 carabiners”. It later became one of 11 routes at Frog that Barber eliminated aid moves or rests from, re-grading them in the process. Given a grade of 20, Devil’s Dihedral makes a fine rite of passage for aspiring hardmen and women.

Devil's Dihedral, Frog Buttress

Photo by Alex Mougenot

It is often described as a climb of two halves. The first half offers a sustained feast of locks and jams, after which the twin cracks shut to become a single, steep trench, widening from fingers to fists. No Frog classic would be complete without the requisite “sting in the tail”, and Devil’s Dihedral doesn’t disappoint on this front.

And what about those other nearby Barber classics, continuing to capture the attention and imagination of climbers even to this day? Well, more on those later, of course.

Route information for Devil’s Dihedral can be found in the Frog Buttress Guidebook by Matt Hutton and Simon Carter.

50 Classic Climbs of Australia
#1 – Logan’s Ridge, Mt Barney – Grade 3 – 1000m
#2 – Punks in the Gym, Mt Arapiles – Grade 32 – 35m
#3 – The Bard, Mt Arapiles – Grade 12 – 120m
#4 – Sunburnt Buttress, Mt Tibrogargan – Grade 19 – 185m
#5 – Infinity, Frog Buttress – Grade 19 – 40m
#6 – Cornerstone Rib, Warrumbungles – Grade 14 – 190m
#7 – Muldoon, Mt Arapiles – Grade 13 – 42m
#8 – Pole Dancer, Cape Raoul – Grade 22 – 55m
#9 – Blade Ridge, Federation Peak – Grade 17 – 420m
#10 – The Janicepts, Blue Mountains – Grade 21 – 27m
#11 – Ozymandias, Mt Buffalo – Grade 28 or M4 – 280m
#12 – Tiptoe Ridge, Mt Arapiles – Grade 5 – 120m
#13 – Groove Train, Grampians – Grade 33 – 45m
#14 – Devil’s Dihedral, Frog Buttress – Grade 20 – 45m

Thoughts? Opinions? Cries of dissent?